Sprung Formal Issue 10

Page 1



Managing Editors Max Adrian and Quinn Kavanaugh

Staff Amaad Delmar, Muriel Fogarty, Cassie Allen, Crista Siglin, Christina Nobiling, Alyce Mendoza, Jonathan Bennett, Marshall Cargle, Michelle Miller, Michael Rose

Faculty Editor Jordan Stempleman

Sprung Formal would like to thank: Phyllis Moore and Malynda Eshleman

Sprung Formal is a literary arts journal published annually in association with the School of Liberal Arts at the Kansas City Art Institute Since 2005, Sprung Formal is a student-edited and produced literary magazine. We pride ourselves on combining professional content with professional grade student work. To see past issues please visit: www.sprungformal.wordpress.com



Casey Hannan SHOTGUN 8-9 Tim Earley IN IMAGERY THERE IS NO LAST OR UTMOST THING 10 AN HONEST AND SENSITIVE APPRECIATION OF EACH VIABLE NARRATIVE 11 LET US WORM TOGETHER THROUGH THE TRELLIS FIRES / I DESUIT YOU MY TENDER CARAPACES 12 Coco Owen K ill ing Me Wit h His Son g 13 My Tex ts, Like Ghostly Exes 14 Annie Raab Partially Yours 15-16 Jillian Youngbird Sleeping Birds 17 Robert Gano Fuck Face 18-21 1986 22-25 Christina Nobiling Dusty Plum Purple 26 Nathan Hoks Father Queen 26 A Father’s Work Is Never Done 27 Emmett Merrill Untitled 29 Marcus Myers The Fiction We Make Between Us (Notes on Boyhood) 30-31 Cassie Allen Cowboy Church 32 I-40 33 4

Siara Berry At a Young Age 34 Daiana Oneto Whitescape 35 Christine Kanownik A woman in Iran or a woman who has killed her lover or has been killed 36 Seth Landman Where You Go 37-38 There Is a Horse 39 Zophia McDougal Untitled 40 Matthew Suss Big Bone Mountain 41-44 Brian Clifton His Banner of Love Was Over Me Single? OmahaLove.com 45-46 Stella Corso POEM FOR EMILY 47 THE LEMON WHICH YOU NEVER BROUGHT DOES NOT GO UNNOTICED 48 Lucy Chouquette Split Banana 49 John Gallaher Fifteen Billion Year Ode 50 How to Be Unhappy 51-52 Really Though, There Is No Problem Here 53-54 Max Adrian Full House 55-56 Crista Siglin Baby Teeth 57-59 Sip the steam, not the exact hot water 60-61


Matt Hart L DOPA 62 IN THE SLURRY UPON US 63 DOPE 64 ROOT CANAL WEDNESDAY 65 Marshall Cargle Untitled 66 Troy James Weaver Speed Date in the ER 67-68 RPG 69-73 Chris Cheney SELF PORTRAIT UNDER BLACK LIGHTS 74 THE GENUIS 75 Phil Estes From Sick Trees 76 Shibboleth 77 Tastemaker 78 Kit Robinson EVENTUAL LISPECTOR 79-80 Peyton Pitts Dope, death, dead, dying and jiving drove her away 81 Caroline Manring “When we go to bed / they on their side tell / one story after another, so each of us / has something to see ourselves in” 82-83 Normandy 84-85 The EPA fails again: a love poem 86 Marshall Cargle Foreplay 87 Paul Hanson Clark Arrowheads 88 Careless sexy fun & free 89 Anna Kamerer Idle/Blessed 90 High-On-Coke-Soaking-In-The-Bathtub-Listening-To-The-O’Pioneers!Audiobook-At-3:34-AM-Thinking-Poor-Poor-Emil-Poor-Poor-Poor-Marie 91 6

Michael Rose Untitled 92 Daniel Borzutzky Obliged to perform in darkness 93-94 Marshall Cargle Untitled 95 Suzanne Scanlon THIS INFINITE PRESENT 96-97 James Sanders Epiimproper 4 98 Joseph Bradshaw The Future 99-100 The Joseph Ick 101 Jonathan Bennett Black Layers 102 Molly Dillon Untitled 103



SHOTGU N While my little brother screamed, while customers covered their mouths, while the manager pressed a red button to freeze the machinery, while the escalator held my brother’s foot, my mother emptied the contents of her purse, sat it on the ground, and told me to stand inside the fabric and be a still boy, she had work to do. My brother was stuck, and my mother would have to pull him out. I looked in her eyes for reassurance. I didn’t recognize what I saw. Like a house in a tornado, my mother was lifted from me and transferred elsewhere. A long time ago. Even so, her eyes are the eyes I see now as a deer breaks through the windshield and breathes steam into my face. The steam is green and smells like grass. My own drunken breath left my lungs on impact. I swallow the air the deer discards. I drove out here alone, always alone, but now I have a passenger. I can’t turn my head to see who it is for fear the deer isn’t finished coming through the windshield. She would bite my neck if I showed it to her. I reach to my right and feel glass. Under the glass, blood. Under the blood, my passenger. It’s breathing or dying, but it’s present, and it whimpers. The deer barks in my face. I remove my hand from the mystery beside me. “Oh, God,” I say, even though I don’t believe in Him. I believe in the deer. The more I believe in her, the more she stretches her neck into the car. Her nose and my nose touch. I’m another layer of glass. I worry she’ll smash through me. Her task sits in the passenger seat. Screaming now. Touched by my hand but not identified. Until I catch a coil of fur in my periphery. My passenger. A fawn the color of bread. The deer withdraws from the metal and glass and stands in the road. She waits for the fawn. She chirps. My own mother showed my little brother how to slip from his shoes and descend the escalator with broken toes. I am pinned behind the wheel. The fawn unfolds its legs and exits through the hole shaped by its body. It slips down the hood and taps onto the asphalt. The headlights show me all of it now, glowing as iced tea glows in a glass on a sunny patio right at the moment the glass is thrown against a wall. The fawn is beautiful but unwell. Broken jewelry. I place my hands flat on the car horn and swear I’ll never father 8

children. I press hard. The horn cuts naked through the damage, a shout in a dream that wakes the dreamer into a silent room. The silence is even more menacing than the sound. Mother and fawn bolt into the dark. “Wait!” I yell. But I address no one. The deer will die in the woods from internal injuries like my mother died a year ago from complications after falling down the stairs and like my brother shed all his color in hospice. I sit in the dark, not afraid of ghosts. I pray for them. None visit. Bugs vibrate in the trees, my only company. For a while now, I’ve driven alone. Tonight, I rest my head on the steering wheel and cry. I thank no one in particular for where I’ve landed. Just that I have. I have landed.



I N I M AGE RY T H E R E I S NO L A ST OR U T MOST T H I NG A man’s jowls indicative of his ethical allegiances. Rose milk smell of high time and enforce the reality of Jesu Christi apocarizon but tobacco smoke is the more prevalent immanence. Why should I remediate this trash heap. Let me tamp on this quarine filter make a superreal only bald erudites can perceive. y’all remind me of furries. the animal milleux is my familial milleux. I am the fixer who cleans up the blood of the bankers once they have protested placing a plebian inside a trash compacter, like it’s the first time, but still, a little notch in they brain pilate they insensate treble into the human. They arch once and then are eliminated. Volition the so-sorry experimental ghost of ape cantation. We dug into up to our post-anal tail this the particle board apotheosis filmy rheum of this synthetic aural backdrop, our little pontif narratives, our little excusers. My apple out-spueth the devil-christ apple that spueth mostly the revelation of transparency. I like the flesh that isn’t meek but flies unto its prey like a choral harkening. Check your privilege C-Nute lord of Vikings and wrestle Malcolm Canmore for the golden anal fig that gleam forth a testimony of ancient spookery. We shall be replenished. Let’s be real eating peat bugs is the height of romance. There are no highlanders anymore for comparatively the lord has gained a tractioning a modicum of increased elevation each year since he got up and walked the fuck out the grave like a falter-icon. Intemperate synth flourish at the crossroads. A letter to the father is necessarily bepopulated with a quarrying of flies. The end of amplification is a fish-like emotion is an unerring fish-eye cast upon a maidenhead escaping the fens.


A N H ON E ST A ND SENSI TI V E APPRECIATO N OF EAC H V I A B L E NARRAT IVE In the sore palace we inhabited perspective roles. Everyone got along mostly for awhile. Filch strangled the goats. Rusty plugged the leaks. Twila soldered the fractals. Immaglum shat on all of our heads. I writ a newspaper article calling for trenchance in the face of leisure. The cavalier peered into our shantum with his teleoscope. The pressure was gradually increased. I could no longer face tending the wyrm hatching an egg lactating the batter whoosh the exhaustion and to learn my depression was caused by a parasite with rubbery nubs for teeth was just the most overweening mortician’s drink I had ever tasted. My creases and fissures fascinated me for the first time ever. Glower-fashion. The trash got ripe and concacted its own material hierarchy. Filch ate Rusty’s parts Rusty ate Twila’s parts. Immaglum imprisoned Filch in his exterior bowel tank and blanch blanch blanch is all I can say. I departed. The sacraments lowed their heavenly quasars. The puerile babe lobbed apples into the fiery wholly foul night purpled with blank whispers. I accused each castle I passed of being a very dense book! I kept a small rabbit named five-wits in my coat. My beard grew counsel and wed the strange wend of spirit debt, but I was cheapened by shewzy jokes and a kind of anti-philosophy that halted my cellular processes. Years later I returned and trembled like a little acre.


LET US WORM TOGETHER THROUGH THE TRELLIS FIRES / I DESUIT YOU MY TENDER CARAPACES Tick takes his Goody powder first of pink blast day all in his face. Sucks on clabber-metal to make incense sure his dick is still attached. It is hard to get on a horse and ride across the plains with lightning and fleas licking on your sitter but somebody like my Diddy did and the necropolises arose. And then this nacreous aggression. These scurvo-gressions. I tried to have a friend who was not like me. I tried to have a friend who was not like me. Powerful derisions were cast. My mother hid me inside a hole when he came around. She took me to town and pulled me around on a little chain. He flew through my backyard looking for me. He played with the plastic dalliances that structured my days. They were brightly colored. They retained not my essence. The longing to find a mutual beast, the rawliest subovcal among the wires strumpeted ashen and sirene. In that hole my brain flecked—did my lordy have brain meat, did his geometries have brain meat, did galactic light steal from his anus and pewter down the raw-sucked hills. When the clouds come in grabbled apart by the tallest trees was this the medley of porcine days re-returned, of blasted discard treacle bodies. For praise was not an insignificant percentage of my insanity. Through the deprecation of another’s mallow mine own comical solitary may absent itself. The incisive dressfall of complete ward absence, a word like breadknought enjoys patterns and sexual estate taxes. Insofar as a knife lay on the counter next to the Febreze and then forced itself into the temple of evolutionary man, the tee vee with its patois most ratchet. Flesh is fish and once stippled in fish flesh everything is substituted. At least we shot the clothespine dandy in his quare ass head. My belly felt like a toothsack down in that hole. Pound-dog hound-dog bake a little man.



K ill ing


Wit h

H is

Son g

Eve ryw he re is w her e s he puts t his blues in in co he rent son g. S he is no t not per form ing a p lain son g, is no t not a sin gin g ch ur ch- lad y in a boxy hat. T he h ex that is not one, sin g it a gain. Or sin g no more, Rob erta F lack, &

Queen-of-his-blues be.

No w k now y our own men tality, f or he sang a god song, kill in g us s oft ly with it. F or we wo men had a sty le he covet ted. I d welt all f lush with f ever, s lain in spirit, embar assed by his crow d. W he n h is s on g s topped me, I Lady- Day d IED.



Tex ts,

L Ike



Al l of my ex- Tex ts we re of the m Al e L Ike Tro Jan horses, they Bo re a Tom ic words distur Bing Norm Al cy. Each of my ex- Tex ts b Lew l Ike an improv is Ed explosive de Vic e— t his m ay sound sinister, but the word ‘semin Al’ might be Tru er. The name Tex fit my ex to a T. He glut Ted the court Doc kets with ex-p Art e motions & reams of was Ted paper. Did the X in Tex t bring on our double- c Ross Ed end? I fled from couple Dom to a single-mindedness which Levi Ed me into a poorer s Tate. Saussure (the linguistics pro Fess or) chas Ed the ghosts in words down to every meaning Les s anagram. It’s the ideal paranoid pas Tim e. But I am over lo Vin g Dick l Ike that, for women married to Tex ts langu Ish.




Partially Yours In the summertime, Frisbee dug holes that housed quiet seedlings of crabby grass and sprouts from a long network of weeds, until I sprained my ankle on the way to the garden and Arlo set to filling all the holes back in. Frisbee—with her nose close to the ground—treated the whole matter as a game. When Arlo filled one hole, Frisbee dug another. From my lawn chair to the garden, Frisbee re-dug her holes and looked back at me when I snapped her name, but I could not get up (or would not) to stop her. Arlo came from the house with his shirt changed to the tattered grey one from our early dates, and a shovel in his grip. I half expected Frisbee to understand me when I pointed to my ankle and said, “Will you come see if it’s broken?” Her ears went stiff and eyebrows arched, but my waving toward the bum foot did nothing to convince her. In between holes, Arlo told me about dogs that could smell cancer. The dog was a two-birds-one-stone kind of deal for the patients, providing both comfort in the hospital room and an accurate diagnosis. A patient is calm with a dog in the room. She can proceed in the discussion evenly, all the while her hand on the head of the dog, whose eyes open and close when she strokes the bridge of his nose. Frisbee’s tail went down and shoulders went slightly forward while she chomped at something from the grass. When the sunlight hit her grey spots and paws, it turned her body blue, like crabs I had seen on a beach once. I settled into my chair while Frisbee dug more holes and Arlo filled them in. On our honeymoon in Costa Rica I asked Arlo if he would like to have a child. “We’ve both done this before. If we didn’t do it then, we shouldn’t do it now.” He spoke of our previous marriages—both childless—and he was probably right. Montezuma wild dogs (some blend of native dog and Rhodesian hound) roamed around the hills and beaches. I asked if he’d like to adopt a child, but the answer was in his eyes before he said, “I only want you. For the rest of our lives,” and wrapped his arms around me. Time had begun to weigh on us like the fat avocados weighed the branches. A child, we said, would only consume the little energy we still possessed, and what would be left for each other? We laced up our damp boots around a fresh pair of socks to go into the rainforest. The booming of the howlers shook the unseen tops of trees, sending down drops of warm rain to splatter on our coats. The wild dogs didn’t go into the forest. Colonies of bullet ants writhed on the edge of the trees, hungry for the supple paws of dogs. In my attempt to lure the wild dogs to me, I chose the phrase the women used in town, “Ay, qué líndo! Ay, qué líndo!” because they trot to them, tongues hanging down one side, and accept the head of a fish from an open hand. We stayed in the canopy house. An auburn staircase led us up in the trees to a small house with thin netting that replaced some of the walls. We could look out into the forest and blow away the big mosquitoes that stuck to the outside of 15

the nets. Where the fabric met the walls we spotted several skittish lizards. There was a thick, cream colored duvet for tourists but we opted for the scratchy wool blanket tossed over the couch. When it was too humid to sleep, Arlo rolled onto his back and I counted the beads of sweat in his armpits. I compared the size of my ribcage to his and we remembered the distant days when our bodies never sagged, not with any sense of loss or mistreatment by time, but as one would remember their first vehicle, or even their second. Tree frogs chirruped through theirs and our consummation, some of it old and some of it pleasantly new. Towards the end of the night we fell asleep under the faint patter of rain that sometimes sprayed through the mesh wall onto the floor. In this dream, you were the bottom jaw of a deer and I was one of the leg bones. They floated near my chest, one crossed over the other. From the edge of a wet and humid wood, a clump of hay-colored hair was tangled in the barbed wire that wound between the posts. The cross of the jaw and the partial leg of the deer pressed against my heart, and amplified into the woods the song of you inside me. Throughout treatment, the patient has the option of caring for an animal. Fostered animals can often benefit from being cared for as a secondary. Treatments are more effective when an animal is at the patient’s side. A cat who sleeps with his head on the feet of a man is better than a cat who sits atop the dresser. A dog will relax a patient’s veins, so her blood can carry the opiates directly to the source, just by laying her head on the edge of the bed. A patient takes this as a sign of love. They remember this is how all love works. What is not gained can still grow. Frisbee leapt into the air to catch the biscuit Arlo launched with his shovel. I clapped and she trotted around the yard, tossing her head all proud and smug. Arlo put on a show while my ankle healed and Frisbee resumed making holes in the yard, because the urge to create cannot be restrained, even if that part of you has been filled in already.



Jillian Youngbird, Sleeping Birds


Fuck Face

My father insists that I must play catch with his cataract. We play a game of back and forth. Don’t call this misfortune. It’s not nearly as difficult as it sounds. When I toss his cataract into the middle of the street he calls me a fuck face. He tells me to walk no more than ten paces forward and turn left onto First Street because his cataract is about to jump headlong and shameless into this game we call Who Is The Fuck Face On First Street. Into our house on First Street in walks a dude who wants to push us around until his head starts vibrating a sort of trauma that makes us all dance the hell on earth jig. He’s got the inhospitable vibes. He reclines upon my puffy recliner and loses one third of his head.


I’ve never seen anything quite as inconsiderate as this.

My father built a pond in the backyard that is filled with one third of that intruder dude’s head. My father and I agree intruder dudes should surrender without fighting back. Dudes can be so stupid. They vibrate in the teeth of a mean unflavored soup. I hate when my soup gets cold. My dude shakes his soup until I shiver and my teeth chatter. My dude can fall asleep anywhere. He knows super intense intruder dude tricks that make us all doubt the continuity of each of our everyday moments. When this intruder dude eats too much of his own soup and dies in the pond out in back, my father calls me a fuck face he calls me a fuck face, I know all about the fuck face. I’ve got a collection of fuck face. Let’s all get together and lounge on puffy recliners and become a gaggle of fuck faces. Sit on my face of intruder dude fuck. I’ll sit on your fuck face whenever you want.


I’ve got diseases all over my mind and body because I put my hand in my father’s pond in the backyard, that pond in which intruders dudes think the eating of scum is the way to lose their fucking heads. My father calls me The Bum Rap. He calls me The Unclean. He calls me whatever he pleases. He calls me his mister-number-two-dude. He thinks I could have been his assassin. He’s got his eye on me. He frames my face and sells it for ten whole dollars. I sell my fuck face for one dollar more. I’m up to eleven. That’s how I keep up the trick. That’s how I fuck my own face. My father often reminds me that my mother won’t stop her habit of spitting on my average fingers, my average fingers that touched the dead thing in the backyard over and over. My fingers touched a whole bunch of dirty jism as I wiped off my face. My mother saw all the jism happen. But she’s terrified of intruder dudes that die in her soup. My mother won’t stop the flow of all that dirty liquid on my fuck face as I am an intruder. That’s what my god tells me. 20

He calls me a messed-up mother of disinformation. That’s what my god tells me when he goes skinny dipping with that guy who has lost one third of his head as it has become the custom to lose one third of your head when you skinny dip with The Divine in somebody else’s backyard. This intruder dude never gets out alive. He never even tries. He’s munching the pond scum. He tells me it’s delicious. My father looks fondly upon all those times that he and I played catch with his cataract. He has the photos in his wallet. My mother does not believe she has accumulated the dirty liquid. I would have to agree. My god may be omniscient but he may be just a fuck face who enjoys the company of fuck faces exactly like me.



Challenger disaster Challenger disaster don’t you talk about the Challenger disaster I don’t want to hear about the Challenger disaster the year 1986 is a bad place to be. When I was young, my uncle would go into the rainy dark night and tell me, I need to be preemptive about the Challenger disaster. I need to get sick to my stomach from the Challenger disaster. I need to erect a statue of the Challenger disaster in my front lawn, as the rains have become nothing but pesticide, and solar flares have transformed themselves into a hail of nuclear missiles. Like one-thousand seven-hundred and seventy-six suns, they need their turn to shine! A hail of nuclear missiles needs to be counted as righteous. I need to feel debilitated when I think of my uncle. He rolls his eyes in shame. He voted for the original American flag. He’s got I Am The Father tattooed on his penis! I roll around on my front lawn and go to the hospital. I need to find a fallout shelter right this second.


I think my creepy neighbor took a liking to Chernobyl. I don’t understand this fun of radioactivity in the shit fuck. Don’t call me a shit, or a communist. I may be a fuck face. My balls may be broken. It’s true, the heavens sure are bizarre! Are we going to make it out of 1986 intact? Don’t talk about Chernobyl. It seems you like it. It seems you like it. just like my creepy man neighbor. Hot damn! The flowers growing in Chernobyl. These days! Have you ever witnessed anything like it? They have the surreal colors that caused the original Challenger disaster. My aunt used to go down into concrete and stay there for half-lives. Do you know the hot temper of the red-blooded lands you never have visited? Like when the dinosaurs were hit by meteorites! Every living dinosaur was specifically hunted down by a meteorite with its own reptilian name, written down in 1986. A prehistory alive in 1986, in 1986 cursive. Everybody was a sniper in 1986. I was deathly ill in 1986. Just like my aunt I was caught up in half-lives, as meteorites crashed with frightful precision into my incorrigible gaggle of dinosaurs. Oh my god! They were filled with derision. They called me intrusive. They were bogged down with infections from lands you never have visited.


Maybe all along, I have been a tsar who has perpetuated atrocities towards the hapless proletariat, or my father and I are tenacious fuck faces to one another. Ronald Reagan has become my surrogate grandfather! The way he spoke counted as righteous. My surrogate grandfather’s job was to count the hammers and sickles. He tallied up one-thousand seven-hundred and seventy-six. That is patriotic. Mikail Gorbechev tattooed Argentina onto his forehead. And voila! The Challenger disaster was nevermore. After I left the hospital, the Voyager satellite landed on my front lawn It thought it was statue of Sputnik! It did not know that the year of the communist dinosaur was 1986. I have heard a vicious rumor that we are all dinosaurs born in Chernobyl, born with delirious colors, in that, we have stepped into outer space and we have no idea where Chernobyl will take us. I think watching Star Trek is the way to go! I watched every episode of the original Star Trek in one epic sitting. It gave me the guidance to deal with the Challenger disaster. Every episode of Star Trek gave me something to be. After all these miserable years of the Cold War, I am finally Captain Kirk! As I am a fuck face. My grandfather Ronald Reagan is a fuck face. My god is a fuck face.


It was helpful to watch William Shatner overact. He was filled with derision towards his television crew mates! They thought he was intrusive. Before I had witnessed this drama of Star Trek, I just figured I had a bizarre disease handed down from all the men in my life. I don’t like radioactivity. I don’t like 1986. It sounds like Chernobyl. Mikail Gorbechev tattooed Argentina onto his forehead.



Dusty Plum Purple

My Grandma Sue had just come back from town with purple paint. And she wanted to use it on the cabin. Our cabin. She wanted to coat the perfectly good green our cabin had been sporting every summer since before I was born with those cans of that purple. Purple is nice—but not on the cabin. Grandpa built the cabin. It was a slumpy little cottage out in the middle of nowhere on the edge of Lake Alice. It had only three rooms: Grandma’s room, the double bunkbed room, and the living room with the stove, sink, table, fridge and foldout couch—there was an outhouse outside. None of the bedrooms had doors, only thin cotton linens my Grandma had sown and strung up like curtains. When I was little, I’d stand in the doorway and drape the fabric around my head and shoulders because I wanted hair like a willow tree. I’d twirl and swish the sheet around my ankles, and when my Mom would look over from frying hash on the stove, I’d have to become a caterpillar and spiral into a ghosty cocoon against the wall before she could shush me for waking up my brothers. I liked those curtains. They were green too, like the mint chocolate chip colored shawl Grandma kept on Grandpa’s bedside and only wore when she read her prayer book. Why did she want to paint the cabin? And why the hell purple? It wasn’t even a nice purple. It was milky looking. It was like the greyish, chalky purple that comes in the multicolor Crayola buckets, but without the fun. It wasn’t even the kind of purple that could pass for blue—it was called Dusty Plum! Dusty God Damn Plum. She wanted to seal the glory of our cabin in that washed out, powdered fruit pigment? No. “Purple, Grandma?” I said, “you want to paint it purple?” She blinked a little, in her usual manner where her head bobbed almost unnoticeably fast like she was rattling off questions in her head and answering yep yep yep to one after the other. “Don’t you like purple?” she said. I felt like enfolding myself into the green curtain.



Father Queen

Father is an economic power. Like a harbor, his eyes are always Open, and he inhales the nexus of raw Material—precious metals and vital flour— So when he smells an unfavorable sky He cancels his appointments and dresses In hot drag. With his red her-tongue He flicks the pulp off the orange rind Then drag-father even eats the rind Since he-she sees a tiny Jesus in it. Holy drag-father drapes himself In a fabric divine. He sleeps beside A tree. His her-neurons are a tomb Of water baptizing the muffins And blessing the fruit dish before It enters the callous womb, his her-mouth Attached to the glowing speakerphone.


A Father’s Work Is Never Done

Father was tired of gender so he went into a trance and conceived the Holy Ghost, A neuter spirit that would ride alongside him as he drove his dark red Saturn up the mountain of the future. And he drove up the mountain of the future and deforested most of it and built luxury condos on the southwest slopes And he relocated the wolves, which were dear as children to him, in zoos so large the zookeepers were still mapping out the boundaries. Then the Holy Ghost got lost in a pack of storm clouds, which was the plan from the beginning for even in the beginning Father’s plans were complex and ineffable. Father’s plans were beautiful as scrambled eggs. Father’s plans were difficult to digest, and the more we asked about them the more we felt butter churning in our stomachs. And he devised this plan: in the future English will be a moustache that slowly leaks hot oil into the mouths of the Anglophones. And he devised this plan: we’ll stand on our heads and let the ocean wash over us. The ocean will be a tub of mint tea. The ocean will make the sound of a tuba and be filled with manatees. He devised another plan and took a nap. His nap was a long summer day and in his dream he conceived new names for his children And he awoke with a start and let out a yelp when they began clipping his whiskers. They clubbed each other with magic police wands and smeared blood on his Saturn’s windshield. It was a homecoming party and they needed to build a nest. They needed to crawl back into that monster’s mouth.


Emmett Merrill, Untitled



The Fiction We Make Between Us (Notes on Boyhood)

The fingers of teenage memory uncover

an ugly calm those moments afterward with Anna Beth

at Gulpha Gorge. I reach back to find an absence, hers, mine, everyone else’s. A mild death of sun that left us hollow after being sated. Easily done

in the gyre of wiring buzzards

above the bobcat’s kill, easier to do now retracing the gorge’s crumbling face, the layers of headstone-gray slate, the shit

colored dirt, the past decade of mattress springs,

and jaundiced briefs, plastic six-pack rings of algae, tampon applicators, a fetid bolus of etcetera chewed

by surges tonging stones in the creek bed, over

the underbrush and saplings, above the culverts, inches beneath the road beyond the high-water bridge. A lie my father used to tell: The water washes everything.

It satisfies to notice the corrective fingers

of recollected moon, and two whole hands of sun, only wanted to reach into the Eastern hills to claim us. To hear the water’s roil join with stars to sing away 30

beneath the ledges, to open our hungry mouths

and leave us with wanting

nothing more to say. Until barn owls and cicadas mouth the music we could not wait to own.



Cowboy Church Well, miracles happen, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, couldn’t stop staring. This deer had gotten into the church. Idiot thing must have broken in sometime last night, somehow busting through the basement’s half-window right into our little chapel. He’d made a real mess of things, trying to get back out. He’d landed on one of the card tables, landed so hard the legs all splayed out like cactus spines. He shat everywhere and bled everywhere, on the floors, on the walls, all over the murals those poor high schoolers had worked so hard on. He’d kicked a bunch of holes into the walls with his little acorn hooves, into the manger and into Mary’s knees and the wide-eyed faces of the lambs. Somehow, fuckin’ idiot, he’s gotten the point of one of his antlers wedged up right up under the brass crucifix we hung on the podium, right up under Jesus’s knees. He was stuck good. He was hanging off the stage where the podium had been before he’d decided to attack it. His body was crumpled up like a truck’s after it hit a guardrail. He was breathing heavy, but there were no whites in his eyes, he didn’t even see me. His eyes, his sunglass eyes, were held on the window he’d come through, like whatever was coming for him was coming through there. Maybe the wolves, maybe the Lord, maybe a man with a hood and an axe, his neck draped over that podium so perfect. I caught myself staring with him, caught myself waiting for whatever he was. The deer breathed deep and sighed heavy, and kicked his legs like a wasp does after you smash it.



My little brother and I went down to the creek this morning, the spot by the bridge. Isaiah picked up a deer skull, this one almost too fleshy and fungus-addled for me, and held it above his head, looking up out its hollow eye sockets and the hole in its head and laughed. “What the hell is funny about that?” I snapped at him. We were down by the bridge by the highway. This is the spot where the poachers from the north side of town drop their kills from the day. This is where they saw out moon-shaped holes in the deers’ skulls to get out the slice of bone where their antlers live, the only part worth anything to them, so they can smuggle it back across the state line. Then they chuck the deer off the side of the bridge, letting crumple in the shallow water and get carried downstream. Most the time they don’t drift, though, and they get caught up on the banks or the legs of the bridge and the fish and the frogs and the vultures and butterflies come and pick their bones white and the water clear again. I think they stopped trying to be careful with the deer lately. When me and Isaiah have come here the last month or so, I’ve seen the deer all tangled up on the rocks or dangling off the tree branches. Its like a sick game or something, to launch them like grenades full of meatloaf down into the trench where their brothers lie now. Isaiah loves their bones, their pencil-skinny ribs, their little pointed toes and the baby teeth at the front of their mouths. This was the first time we’d found a whole skull in a while- they tend to fall apart when the meat breaks up. Isaiah’s big white eyes followed the hole in the shadow cast by the skull above him. “What if these deer are monsters?” he said. “What if this-” he pointed to the hole in the skullcap. “Is an eye hole? And these-” he pointed to the eye sockets, “Are the nose holes? And the head goes straight up and down and the one big eye looks at the sky all day! And it’s such a good eye it can see heaven!” He held the skull up to his face now, peering right out of the window in the bone at the sun, too close to the fucking rotting flesh he’s going to get in his fucking eye, like he can see angels too.



At a Young Age

At a young age I noticed my mother’s scalp. No, it was never exposed as if she were sick, or prematurely balding, which I’m surprised never happened. It was never anything dramatic, as you’d probably think after reading the word ‘scalp’. No, it was nothing like that. Everyday after school, my mother and I would retreat to opposite ends of the couch. Her left arm would recline on the maroon plaid armrest, as her right hand dug viciously into her ruby-twisted cushion of hair. We kept silent, her eyes fixed on the daytime t.v show and mine on her crooked fingers deep within her frizzed locks. I could hear the cake-faced actress confessing her love for the neighbor man. My mother didn’t seem phased. Her cragged knuckles were kept tense as a lone index finger navigated back-and-forth along her hairline and back towards the center of her head as if searching for something to complain about. I was captivated by her, constantly maintaining a steady rhythm and a wellcoordinated scratch-per-area ratio. She’d probably run her finger along her scalp a dozen times before calling it quits. I had a hard time believing she was actually relieving some deeprooted itch but instead picking at her scalp for pleasure, opening scabs to let them heal again.


Daiana Oneto, Whitescape



A woman in Iran or a woman who has killed her lover or has been killed

They ask, what makes him so short or his eyes so brown, short legs, dull brown eyes, dishwater, like trout's water, like cabbage water, like sauerkraut, and mouth gaping open or closed They know someone who once loved him and once was destroyed by him they know how she suffered due to his inconsistencies They would never let anyone destroy them, even temporarily, they are too old, they have let too much time pass us by to be destroyed by a man with patchy skin and questionable character, they say they have ousted and are never tired of their ousting



Where You Go

I was walking through a cemetery on a brisk, autumn day, and many people were dying. I felt the gates open, and from around a corner a hearse materialized. All of this was happening in a small city in another decade. I was walking home from school, and my jacket was insufficient for the weather. Far above my head, a hawk was perched regally on the branch of an oak looming over my side street. The dead climbed up the hill from the pond. The dead went left down the path after the weeping willow. I wanted to get where I was going already, but I did not feel like walking any faster. My heartbeat sounded like it was coming from outside of me until I finally realized what it was. I felt alarmed, but I felt alive. This ambivalent phrase found me. What are you reading? What are you thinking? I was sitting outside in the courtyard watching the walls start leaning in. I must have had too much coffee this morning, and my heart raced around the pond. It was only beginning to ice over, and my feelings were in the air all over it. I can’t tell when you are thinking about me, it isn’t clear from the evidence in the air. I was walking along a ridge high in the mountains thinking about the nature of vacation. I sat on the grass, my back against a headstone, and thanked you for your paintings. I thanked you for your images. I thanked you for my eyes. All of this stuff you know already, counting the stars, the feelings, every face you ever saw while you were here. I was walking in another city in another climate in another mood at another moment, but I was still me where you are. The dead want 37

the heartbeat to sound like thinking. They sound and they surface. The dead are ambivalent, walking on air, and everywhere they are, we miss them.


There Is a Horse I considered the horse a significant time I’m on my way there is a kindness it is impossible to find it to park the car there is a living animal I can’t take it there’s a time to suck let’s say things are going well you feel well you try to imagine but you have to travel and on the way consider by the roadside the head of a horse looming in headlights over the guard rail in significant darkness there is a horse and I am the horse I am on my way and to find my way is hard I am here in the problems of horse navigation using the stars learning the way back to myself through fucking translation and blathering people to hear myself think these valuable thoughts freaking out in the moonlight


Zophia McDougal, Untitled



Big Bone Mountain

On the other side of the forest is Big Bone Mountain. Kids go there to fuck or else kill themselves. Mostly they kill themselves or get drunk. Kids don’t fuck as much as everyone thinks. Kids don’t fuck as much as they think they do. But it’s a little like if you go there something’s going to happen and most kids want something to happen because nothing happens around here. I’m bored, you’re bored, let’s make-out and see what happens. Sometimes old guys camp out on the mountain and hang themselves. Or sometimes they just disappear into the woods and you find their tents and shit all around. There’s an old mental hospital there, too. Abandoned after things happened there. I don’t know what. It doesn’t matter. Lots of people still live in the underground tunnels. Homeless people. They like children. They kidnap the slow ones and pass them around to their friends until they’re too fucked up. They cut them up and bury them. I’m not slow so I don’t have anything to worry about. But my sister is. She has Down Syndrome. I don’t like her. Yeah, because she’s a retard. So what? Fuck her and fuck my mom for giving birth to her. My sister doesn’t like me either. Spits in my face all the time, cuts up my socks and underwear when I’m sleeping. She stabbed the neighbor’s dog in the neck, right in front of my mom, and my mom just thought it was the cutest thing ever because my mom’s like that. She’s slow herself but in a different way. She’s always talking baby talk to my sister. She talks baby talk to everyone. She couldn’t talk normal if it was god’s will, which it isn’t. God’s dumb but he’s the only one who can save us because we’re all evil. I believe in god, yeah. I talk in tongues sometimes. It scares my sister but that’s not why I do it. I can’t control it, it just happens. Like my eyes will stop seeing what they usually see, the world and everything, and I’ll see this big black egg, and it wants me to go towards it. I don’t know how I know, I just know, and so I walk into things like my dresser if I’m alone in my bedroom 41

when it happens. The egg makes a sound. It’s like it’s asking me questions except the questions are a hum. The egg never cracks or anything. It’s so smooth. Black and smooth, and I start making these sounds with my throat and that’s god. I know because god’s inside the egg, and the only thing that can break the egg is my voice. But it never works, no matter how loud I talk or how big my eyes get. It’s not gibberish. It’s more like a historic reenactment, if that makes sense. Like I’m far back in time, or far ahead in the future. Sort of. Mostly it feels like I’m not anybody’s son. Whatever. The cats scream when my sister pinches their tails. This is the only thing that makes her happy. Screaming. Her own, the cats, my screaming when she hits me with a pussy willow that my mom picks from the side of the road, along the drainage ditch near the highway ramp every summer. My mom puts the pussy willows in a vase on the counter. I catch her staring at them sort of like the way I stare at the egg when god’s around and my skin gets hot. I wish my sister was dead. Things would be easier for everybody including god if everyone who is retarded was dead. It’s a real burden, Down Syndrome and other retardations, because the angels are all retarded, too. So just imagine what god’s up to all day. Just imagine that noise. All the wailing and god talking baby talk just to get on, that’s the only way. And in the center of heaven a giant vase of pussy willows. My mom sometimes blows on them. I saw her one time and I asked what she was doing and she said she was imagining they were back in the ground, back in the drainage ditch, swaying in the wind. God does this kind of shit, too. Like I said, god’s in the egg and I need to get him out. I haven’t figured it out how yet. I haven’t figured out how to scream or get my voice to do whatever it needs to do to break the egg. Get me out, god says. I can’t stand it anymore. The noise, the farting inside the egg is unbearable. Heaven smells like farts. Like dead people who live forever and so they’ll never go away, they’ll just keep farting until it’s a kind of intoxication, a kind of ecstasy. My friend once told me about ecstasy, how it’s when you leave your body and don’t enter anyone else’s body or anything at all, that you’re just there in the humming. Sometimes his hands shake. Sometimes my hands shake. That’s not why we’re friends but it’s something we have in common and that’s important, to have things in common. He once saw a UFO. It looked like candy. I want a UFO to take me away from this shit. I don’t even care if I get to go to outer space, 42

although that would be great. The UFO can just leave me somewhere else. Maybe with my dad even though he’s dead. Just drop me off in his coffin. I’d rather live inside the coffin with him. Get tangled up in my dad’s bones and die, and our bones would fuse in total love or else turn to dust for some dickbag to sift through looking for jewelry or whatever grave robbers look for. Or maybe they’d pull out our fused ribcage and make a sex toy out of it or at least a lamp. Sometimes my friends and I have smacking contests. What you do is stand up straight and don’t bitch out. You smack the other person and the other person smacks you and you keep going like that. I like the sting on my hand of someone’s face. Like I just smacked their face off and now it’s on my hand looking at me, their eyes at the center of my palm, their mouth at the center of my palm, and when they’re talking and shouting it’s like my hand is talking and I like what it says. We see who can eat the most candy. I always win. Twelve cotton candy cones is my record, though I could easily eat twenty or thirty but you got to stop or else things get embarrassing for everyone else and no one will play with you anymore. Sometimes girls show up. Sometimes my friends know the girls. Sometimes the girls bring their own friends. They’re all fucking ugly. They look like fat glittery corpse whales. And still they like to take pictures of each other and put them on Facebook. No one wants to look at you. Yeah, you exist but I don’t care. Put a camera in front a girl and she’ll do anything. She thinks she’ll be instantly famous or something. Sometimes we throw girls in the backyard with my friend’s dog. The dog bites their arms or hands or rips their hoodie or whatever but they always come back again. That’s what happens when nobody likes you, not even your friends. One girl had to go to the hospital and get stitches and still she didn’t tell her mom anything. She wanted it. She wants it. She’s coming over later. Inside my mom is another baby. God put it inside her, she says, but god didn’t. God has nothing to do with babies unless they’re retarded and then he’s all over that, always thinking up new ways to perforate the brain, to invent new parts to put in new places. He says if I get him out of the egg he’ll make everyone retarded, he’ll go on a mutant-making spree but save me and whoever I want saved. I don’t care if I’m a mutant or not. I could get away with so much more shit if I was like my sister. That’s the great thing about being retarded: everything’s brought to you on a plate and you can eat it or smash it or do whatever the fuck you want and no one cares or, if they do care, they won’t say or do anything except give you more. You can 43

do anything. You’re free. You’re complete. You’ve the seen the light. You’re like that rain that happened that one time a few years ago where all these bones fell from the sky. Dog bones, chicken bones, deer bones, bird and cat bones, people bones. It happened for miles and miles. That’s the kind of rain that doesn’t dry. Where did all the bones come from? A few days after the rain stopped, some kids came across this huge bone on the mountain. Like a whale bone but if the whale was a house. We climb on the bone all the time, hide in its notches, and use it to climb high up to the parts of trees we can’t normally get to. Sometimes I take my friend’s dog for walks around the mountain. He likes to piss all over the bone. All the dogs do and homeless guys, too. Everyone pisses on the bone. I’ve done it. I don’t know why but it feels so good to piss on something so big. Yesterday I took my sister with me and my friend’s dog. I was bored and wanted to break the egg. It felt like the right time. So we got found this good spot, a clearing in the woods with fridge and mattress were looking gross, and my sister with a milk crate over her head, running around, screaming. She picked up two stones and another two stones, and tried to make a pyramid. I summoned the egg. But the thing was my sister stopped screaming. She saw the egg, too. The big black egg like a big black house. And then it was a house. I didn’t even need to say anything. We walked inside, my sister and I. Inside the black house everything was black, black, black, the furniture, the walls, the rugs and doors, and there were many doors. There was an upstairs, too. And when we walked up the staircase, there was another staircase, another upstairs, and another, and another, and another until out the windows I could see the tops of trees, until out the windows I could see our town and the town next to our town, until the town next to our town became our town, and our town became every town, until out the windows I couldn’t even see the ground, until out the windows I couldn’t see anything, until inside the house I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, until inside the house I couldn’t see my sister next to me, until I couldn’t see, until I couldn’t even remember what it was I couldn’t see.



His Banner of Love Was Over Me Single? OmahaLove.com

Every billboard reflected in my eyes has the word Single and a website written twice my size on it. I am young and so am told I must follow love on its quest to find things more beautiful than those I already have. Today it’s a cat pawing one book then another down from the desk yesterday a rock in the rough shape of a heart and the day before a punctured bicycle on the hillside. But who knows the future for certain or exactly how it scurries 45

from its present room to the next without seeming to lift any of its 100 legs? The signs say hush. The answer: It just does. A sentence dressed like a chandelier— wild ubiquitous light. My eyes brighter and brighter until finally indifferent.




We are a danger to nature you and me, Emily T. We smoke too much and laugh and fill the air with our poems which are not for everyone. Once you were kicked out of a bar for being hyperbolic because they didn’t understand the essence of hyperbole it was just too big for them. I said fuck those people but you love people and I will fuck a thousand people to feel better about being in love because I am and you know I only need one person before I can go into the hills and wrap myself around the nearest tree. Emily, I am alone and driving to see you so I can see me in your sad doll eyes and behind me in my rearview all I see is white, white, white little storms we pass right through.



the lemon which you meant to bring me but never did sits rotting on my shelf it has since grown brazen and nights it turns in its cot watching to see if I wake in order to coax it back to sleep I pinch the corners of its mouth I feed it lemonade from a tiny dropper and stroke its hardened skin it is drying up and it knows it is dying I cannot help it I am still sick


Lucy Chouquette, Split Banana



Fifteen Billion Year Ode

The place you live eats you. As in the model of the universe where it’s one year old, and it’s all the first fifteen minutes and the last second. I remember the model where the earth is one year old better, but either way, the truth is—the real truth about it is—that all of recorded history is a version of Christmas present, so why not shoot off some streamers and kick back? Even the atom is mostly space, a cathedral of empty space, and it’s chalice time. Perhaps there is no such thing as randomness, the prayer they’re saying goes, as randomness might well be an illusion. The more certain we are of where it is, the less certain we are of where it’s going. “Does she like fruit?” a woman asks a man across from me at the airport gate area, and the world hangs in the balance. The world grows attentive. The randomized ceiling pocket lights are reflected in the full-wall windows so that it looks something like a glowing-orb alien invasion, which is the best way to go, according to the survey we just filled out. “Take me to your optical illusion,” it said. “Take me to the land of the giants, or run, Joe, run; black holes continue to mystify everyone.” And the sign above us reads “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room,” which means that there’s always someone in the wrong room, the wrong place, and that smart people are like the water table, full of tiny pink tardigrades, also known as water bears. What did you like best about the last five conversations you were in? Try to replicate that. The problem is always setting. Or, better, sitting. Everything everyone ever tells you is going to be wrong, which means I must be wrong, or else I’m wrong, which would make me right, and several episodes of Star Trek and The Mighty Ultron come to a close, as they decide to go off and do what they really want to do, not just how they’re drawn to the idea of a pot luck, the idea of ambrosia salad or singing bass coloratura. They’re coming up with a machine that can tell you if you’re in pain. It reads the surface of your brain. It skims. It’s bulky so far, and expensive, but they’re working on fixing that. I’m also working on fixing myself. On making myself better. On walking and running. There are exits and “useful” exits. I’ll try swimming to New Amsterdam. I’ll make a chart.


How to Be Unhappy

Because there’s a word for when you think of something but the word for it escapes you. It’s one of those calendar words on word calendars. Every day a new useful word to try out. Use it three times and you’ll remember it. Lethologica, in this case. And of course there are no opportunities to use it, no helpful opportunities, at least. Your friend is stumbling over that word for when someone really wants to achieve some goal and why isn’t it coming to me . . . and, instead of saying “ambition” or some such, you trot out “lethologica,” and the next thing we can all guess. We cross the river of forgetting and what do we have to show for it? Probably a lot, but we don’t remember, and that’s the point. Say, for instance, I buy this magazine on how to raise happy children, which I did, or a book on how to be happy yourself, which is even more popular, and yet the same percentage of people who read these things are unhappy as those who don’t, so we’re behavioral lethologicians then, and I’ve decided this morning the only way out is to write a book called “How to Be Unhappy” which I’m sure someone has already thought of and made bank, because, if we’re doomed to failure, then failing at being unhappy would, in my morning binary thinking, lead one to happiness. Say a fortune teller at the local county fair tells you two things. She tells you something good that will happen, and something awful that will happen. How long do you want to carry them around? How long before you get tired of repeating whatever this good thing or this bad thing is until the need for toothpaste or did you set out the hamburger to thaw intrudes? Say we’re cleaning the house, and we consider a moment the benefits of having the Aztec Goddess Tlazolteotl around, who is also known as “She Who Eats Filth” and is often depicted with dark stains around her nose and mouth. And then one of us remembers the episode of The X-Files where there’s this guy who has to eat cancer, except to get to it he has to eat through a lot of the rest of you, and perhaps Tlazolteotl would be a similar problem as a house guest. Say there’s some filth in your walls, maybe a dead squirrel that you thought maybe you smelled last summer but then you went away and when you came back the smell was gone, but you know Tlazolteotl would be on the case, tearing through your walls. And what of the filth we hoard as we’re wanting to be nice to those who help us and our kin and kind and punish those who hurt us and our kin and kind? What of the junky decisions we make from out of a desire to see good actions rewarded and bad actions punished? Be careful what you wish for and who you sleep with, as connections are unpredictable. Destroy one node of neurons in your brain and you lose the ability to recognize fruits and vegetables, but not other food. Destroy another node and you lose the ability to read, though you 51

can still write. Someone’s planted a bomb in your kitchen connected to a battery by two wires. The fortune teller told you something about this long ago, couched in a story of sunsets, how the pink and blue indicate the ratio of girls to boys born that day. It was going to remind you of something important.


Really Though, There Is No Problem Here

The hard way is to research and fully imagine the place you don’t want to go. Like reliving the past, how it keeps bouncing back after I throw it down. It’s made of flubber, as we’re all made of flubber, starring Fred MacMurray in 1961, or Robin Williams in 1997. Starring my brother in 1975, as my mother pulled from the school parking lot, only he hadn’t quite gotten the door shut, as out he goes as she makes the turn, only he’s holding on and kind of running, or leaping I guess. This is our reenactor textbook. It’s a lab class, and all there really is is what we say there is on a day to day basis. So say I could go back, the way every athlete would love to go, knowing which direction the ball was precisely going to travel, to line up just little bit differently. There’d be no stopping me. I’d end up each night going back to some other night as an act of endless revision. How many plots of movies is this? How many online quizzes of “Which Go-Back-to-the-Past-andFix-Things movie are you?” Or maybe I’d go back with the intention of staying. I could start a career as futurist, invest in Apple. How many times must I think about going back and keeping John Lennon from turning at the sound of his name, to dive, and I’m back in movie plots with my movie plot desires, my shallow understanding of the big picture. I’m supposed to want to see the passion of Christ, or smother Hitler as a baby, but even when we’re trying to be objective, we gravitate to our notions. Right now it’s “Who put that note in my locker, 1982.” And “Who stole the money from the register, 1985.” I could make a whole travel folder of questions as destinations. Maybe it’s just wanting to be a moving eye. If I can’t go back, which I want not to want to do, maybe I could just be this eye hanging from a wire from the ceiling, the fly on the wall, more movie plots, some haunted curtains, where somehow this must be different from being a ghost, which is possibly the point, as a failure of lost baggage 53

or crossed lines. The point being that to be there, to go, means we would have to be, or we would be, destroyed, though math would make it seem possible, as equations work fine in either direction. The future is easier. Don’t you think he looks tired? I can say to myself in the mirror, but yeah, looking tired is all the rage, I’m not older, I’m cosmetic normcore. I’m treating abstract concepts as if they were real things. In the future, these are all potential things to say. Like how they say you can’t go back in time because where are all the tourists then? But what if, going back, one only goes as a vision, or wisp of semi-coherent smoke? Perhaps people pay, the 1%ers of the future, big money to haunt the Mezopotamian music festival while their bodies float in a vat of goo. You can slow your voice down so that anyone is a symphony, so that any bright idea becomes a horror movie soundtrack. The past works that way. How I want to fix it so bad, I’d throw myself back to be movie version number three, where whatever I did to stop it would be the thing that makes it happen. The climate changes. Most excellent sunset. Most excellent trial and error. Most excellent walls and carpeting, as prayer is a form of spell to aid digestion. As it’s cliché to say it but not to think it. As the true journey never ends in an advertisement for a safari in Africa where you can stay in an authentic bush hut, this architecture for living, and be the happiest thing there is.



Full House She said she needed an ambulance. How was I supposed to know better? It was late. I was running up the stairs to the train platform when a voice lashed out at me like a chafing leather whip. “Hey,” she shouted. “I need an ambulance.” There she was, sitting on the bottom step. A little mound of a woman, arms crossed like an art dealer and a cigarette in her right hand. “It’s my back,” she said, motioning behind her. I heard my train as she looked up at me. Her eyes were wide-set and small, but very bright, and I had the idea that she knew something I didn’t. Like the eyes of someone about to deliver a joke, hers had a knowing confidence that encouraged me to stay. I dialed 9-1-1 and leaned against the wall opposite her. After five months in that city, I was well-accustomed to peculiar interactions with the homeless. My first day there, a man in Battery Park threw a ragged bouquet of dead flowers at me and demanded payment in pennies because it made him feel rich to have his pockets jangling. There was another who told me an elaborate story about his piano prodigy/cat whisperer daughter, and would I like to get a pizza and go meet her. Just the week before, a woman with bloodshot eyes was sitting across from me on the subway, drinking straight from a gallon jug of milk. She stared directly at me with a fierceness that began to worry me before finally yelling “You’re a very pretty boy!” I waited patiently for the ambulance to come, prepared for anything this woman had in store. She rummaged around inside her jacket. I expected a cheap flask of whiskey to emerge, but instead, she pulled out a tiny, plastic pig. She did something to it, pressed the tail or something, and with a soft click, a tiny flame came out of the pig’s mouth. She lit herself a second cigarette and started to sway slowly back and forth, humming a familiar tune that I recognized as the theme song to Full House. “There’s a heart, there’s a heart,” she sang, “A ham to do lunch to.” She had the tune right, but the words were off. A hand to hold on to, that was it. I made a noise as I started to correct her but stopped before a word came


out. What’s it matter? I thought to myself. Let the woman have her ham. It was too late though, she had noticed. “What’s that?” she asked. “Nothing. I choked.” She didn’t believe me. Looked at me like I had told her the city was made of goat cheese. Like I expect a lot of people have probably looked at her. I felt my cheeks grow a little warm in the chilly air, and for whatever reason remembered the night I told my mother I was coming to this city. I worry about you, she had told me then, I love you so much, but I worry. She was smoking a cigarette that night, too, though hers wasn’t lit with a pig lighter. The woman blew a small cloud of smoke at me. “Where you headed?” It took me a couple seconds to answer. “A friend’s.” “Good lord,” she said. I’m still not sure what she meant by this, or if she meant anything at all. I didn’t have a chance to ask, though. I heard sirens and saw flashing lights in the distance. I’d forgotten what we were waiting for. Forgotten I’d called an ambulance. Forgotten that I didn’t always exist outside this Jewish bakery somewhere in Brooklyn and that in only a few days, or in the blink of an eye, this entire world I’d come to know would be gone and replaced with another. The driver got out, coughed into his shoulder. “Let’s go, Ethel,” he said. She stood up, stretched, and cracked her back. She was taller than she seemed on the stairs, and poised. Even had a certain elegance in her stance. The paramedic tried to help her, but she shook him off. “I’m fine on my own, Gary!” I watched her walk over to the ambulance, pause, and turn around. I thought she was going to say goodbye, but she wasn’t even looking at me. Her eyes, though, had that same knowingness as before as she looked up at the sky with a smile stretched across her face. Cue the music, I remember thinking, and as if to mock the moment, the siren started to wail. She allowed the paramedic to help her into the back of the ambulance, and they drove away. I stood there a moment longer, under those streetlights. Turned toward the stairs and noticed the little pig on the step she was sitting on. Picked it up and flicked the tail. “A ham to do lunch to, huh?” The flame was faint, but it hasn’t gone out yet.



Baby Teeth

What would it mean if we didn't? We found a wound beneath the fur of the stray that paces near the door—its blood seemed more red. Heat got to it, called out to the sweat bees. We took its stiff body as a precaution. We think about this later. I had told you about the Raised eyebrow “I've never touched those before.” As he gestured to my pantyhose. I tell you it's okay. It only means that he forgot about when he grabbed his mother's leg as a child. There might be a brief apology in the appendix. Maybe there is a book about how this thing happens. When we were young, and had under water tea parties, we understood that the conversation would be all gurgles. What we meant was: “Coca-Cola is used to clean crime scenes. I drink crime scenes to clean my body. I draw circles around the cigarette burns on my fingers. When you came there was a car crash.


Gizzards are to rid the body of toxins. You eat toxins to rid your body of toxins.” Your lover presents you a jar of his baby teeth. They are crisp—falling apart. You give him twenty silver dollars in return. His mother stands in the doorway and empties her pockets. She leaves every blue thing on the floor. I dropped hair on the coffee table, and hair landed in a cup. We started drinking. I knotted the thicker, more course strands with my tongue. “Like a cherry stem,” I said into the mirror, “I am a good kisser.” Now looking into the stray's glossy green eyes, we think we might take up puppetry With the stray cat in front of black tulips that took the florist years to find. In the window of the flower shop, the gold plastic cat stopped waving amongst the leaves. We only keep the blinds open when we have things that are too large To move through the door. Especially the woman portrayed as a water vessel. Especially when “Love's the burning boy” is on deck. And he only boards the one who seems to be a ship. vagina tits arms hands face eyes legs All made of wood.


While spitting sunflower seeds into a jar, we watch the shells and saliva slide down its sides. I saw fear in my father when he walked toward the dark silo away from the fire. I heard your voice in the trees. Today I imagined you making a film of me watching the wind move puppet strings, pulp, and sunflower seeds.


Sip the steam, not the exact hot water

to soothe your throat, and don’t drink in too much. If I do, speak with my mother. if you want to telephone my mother, whisper into my belly button. The truth was always slanted, and so with handwriting, we get to keep our secrets. Normally my body is invisible, because it is typed. We get rid of old-fashioned ways of doing things. We only have conversations inside of parenthesis. You know every mirror will show you your backwards sex. You know the mirror has a memory You try not to make it repetitive. But you never forget how you looked. When you and I tell knock-knock jokes with sad punch lines we howl like wolves, pretending we don’t have to pretend to be wolves. Would it have been any different if the furniture had been arranged differently? Knowledge is acknowledgment? Please, tell me it’s not. Because I know that when trees grow they fall into the sky.


And birds slur their songs when they drink just as I realize I do when I argue a point and I know only I know. I only want to have kitsch in the house if the people who come know that I know that it is kitsch. I only read some texts when I like to be destroyed.




I’ve gotta headache like a pillow—Steve Albini, Big Black

I’ve got a toothache like Steve Albini’s headache Something inside of me cracked and alone A single soul train, or a blade-of-grass graffiti You think you’ve got it bad, well, it’s probably God’s fault 5:17PM is no joke Saturday One day after three days of terror in France My Power Is Wrong is a terrible book I wrote, so you will never read it, but some of the words I might hold onto for dear life, maybe your dear life, but more likely my own This is my hymnal, I’m sorry to say Seventeen murdered and more on the way A rhyme seems in such bad taste right there No doubt I doubt everything, but death’s the new sunset My tooth won’t stop aching like a pillow



Nobody walks through a wall Even dead The grass will not allow the lions, or the lions will not allow the grass somehow to lie down, to latch against the roots, to yellow across the water, where the deaf, bright star falleth into pinkish romance You stand watch with your tongue and take a picture The awkward bow you make to the horizon, immense The tangle of hair in the bathroom sink, a reminder of your head and all the ways it makes no real difference to the earth It’s time to re-sweater the lake and think proud thoughts without any proud thoughts “I miss my friends” and that’s all The fighter jets conduct their flocks— sorties they’re called—of metaphysical birds in a darkness of hand claps, people moving machinery, an ice cream factory of both living and death The unpleasantness of grammar The excitement in your breathing The moment when you close up the door of your small business, and the big cats blast their metal into the venous unbelievable present Some singers can project themselves even dead through a lyre On the other hand, grass stain Teeth, hair, and hawks You cover yourself in the cover of covers The blades stand wrecked and take notice



I burn through the world, feeling off feeling dope Or no I feel nothing but dope I look at the dead winter grass, the yellow radiation in the trees of redundance, the clouds in the wings of the south flying ducks I do not lean and loafe at my ease observing I rehab my hip No running for months, which you can imagine hurts because I love the breezes so much, so I guess I feel something other than dope A drowsy numbness pains my sense But what I want is to be pure soul, which is the silver nothing that animates all things even at 8:08PM, indefinable, ample and rhythmic, even the next morning talking duck confit with Melanie a fava bean salad, roasted leeks with a warm lemon vinaigrette, which we’ll make for all our friends this Saturday, the duck not flying south, but in a lovely cassoulet Mel’s turning into a real Francophile and was so, even before the terrorists attacks She’d move us to Paris, if we could afford it I don’t smoke dope, by the way, I just feel like it



Root canal Wednesday I think of Venice gondolas, for some reason Paradise Lost A corridor in my mouth to another dimension where the nerve is Right now I just can’t wait until later so I can drink a Humongous red syringe Green lake water Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck Washing half-dark clothes in the dark In the numb Half-baked sugar cookies Please note The degree to which I dislike most writing about poetry is surpassed only by the degrees to which I actually enjoy poetry itself, the ways it arrives inexplicably in alt O people with hawks in the depths of your chests Outer space with me a while while the pink sun sets


Marshall Cargle, Untitled



Speed Date in the E R

It took me years of searching—endless socials, mixers, and awkward online chats—to discover that this is the only place to find the good ones, the ones who still feel something, no matter how damaged or uncertain their feelings may be. Like this one, he’s such a good-looking guy, but he keeps saying fuck, grabbing his junk, and rocking back and forth in his chair like an epileptic dog. Occasionally he catches me staring at him and tries to play it cool, hands back at his sides, smile on his face, but within a minute or two, he’s back at it, grabbing his piece, rocking, and saying fuck loud enough for reception to hear it. When he finally looks up at me, he smiles, and I smile back, brushing the hair from my eyes. His face is filled with pain, but his eyes are honest, and his snaggletooth smile seems to be telling me you can put your trust in me. I can learn to love you. He is moaning now, the word fuck no longer sufficient for conveying the slurred-feel of his pain, but he’s still smiling occasionally, when our eyes run parallel a second and meet in the center, under these bright and sterile lights. I’ll bet you he’s reading my thoughts right now, seeing as I haven’t worn that bonnet going on something like eighteen years. And I hope he is, too, and reading me deep and sideways, up and down, because then he’d know his worth in this world. Maybe he already knows it—that in this moment, right this second, he is the most important person in my life. I wink, licking my lips, first the top one, then the bottom. I want to make him tremble inside of me. I want him to know that he is the chosen one, the one, and if he were capable of leaving his selfish pain long enough to read the twisted Braille of my brain, then he would be ball deep in pussy right now, but he only winces and clutches himself harder, closing his eyes to me, smile all gone and faded from his handsome face, limp and imperious, because he’s deep inside himself, searching to find a compartment to store his grace. The seventy-year-old next to him is staring at me. I squint to conjure the image of my father from him, blurred but spitting just the same, when a name is called, breaking my concentration, and the old man leaves the room right as I get the gumption to spread my legs for him. If even for an instant I made him feel something deeper, if he’d gotten to the point of seeing inside of me, past his pain, then he would have never stopped looking. And then a nurse comes up to me, holding a clipboard, and says,


Have you filled out your forms? No, I say, and I stand to leave. I haven’t. I’m not sick. Oh, she says. Are you waiting for someone? I’m not sick, I tell her, but this time I say it in a hardened voice, pushing past her and through the crowd. I walk away from the nurses, away from my anonymous and injured lovers, away from Darius and his mop, his bucket of suds, his brown clothes and janitor’s nametag, hiding my smile behind my hands, but before I even make it to the EXIT sign, I drop my hands to my sides, retreating, and turn around. Back in the thick of these hurt others, I yell at them to come inside, all of them, inviting them into my body as I open my mouth as wide as it will go. Salvation, I tell them, salvation. And before I know it, one by one, the whole waiting room is moving around inside of me. Now they know the weight of my love.



“Listen,” Dave said, “about that thing. I just don’t think I can do it. I can’t role-play rape. It’s too fucked-up. I mean, I feel wrong even talking about it.” “Just once, Dave, that’s all. Would you man-up for once in your life and stop being so fucking selfish. It’s not about you. It’s about me and what I want, not you.” “Okay, fine. I’ll give it a try. But it’ll have to wait until tomorrow. I feel like a bloated corpse from all the garlic bread. If I’m going to do it, I at least want to be able to bring my A-game.” Claire nodded, clearly perturbed, as she opened the car door, but by the time they’d gotten out onto the road, it was like she’d forgotten the whole thing had ever even happened. They made it back to Dave’s before midnight and quickly got hooked into a never-ending loop of Youtube videos. An old Ginsu TV commercial from the mid-90s awed them, a mesmeric glow about their eyes and lips—awesome blades slashing through marble as though it were cardboard or butter or silk or Jell-O or flesh—If you call now, you’ll get the kitchen set plus the bonus bone sheers at the amazingly low, one-time introductory price of $79.99. Please, call now. Dave thought about all those greasers with sparkling knives he’d seen in movies as a boy. He opened a new tab in the browser and Googled switchblades, found a few attractive, cheap ones—rosewood handles, stainless steel blades—and he knew that it was just the right tool for a man such as himself at that exact moment in his life, as the hair was starting to thin and fade and the stamina had long ceased to be any kind of declaration of youth. But then Claire ruined it for Dave by saying that they should probably read up on the knife laws in Kansas. “I’m pretty sure switchblades are illegal,” she said. “$2,500 fine and up to six months in jail for being in possession of a switchblade,” he said. “And yet, those fucking idiots let folks run around with guns in their glove boxes and tucked in their waistbands.” “Well, so much for buying switchblades and being badasses,” she said, grabbing his arm, kissing his shoulder. She was wearing only her black panties and a white bra, and her strawberry blonde hair almost looked a burden upon her weak pale shoulders, but Dave hardly noticed. He was too concerned with his new obsession to give a shit


about anything, let alone beauty. “There’s got to be a way to get one of these puppies into the state,” he said, sitting in the spinney chair in his boxer shorts and a leather vest, no shirt. “I know a guy—“ “Whatever, Ponyboy,” she said. Dave fell silent. “Oh, no,” she said. “Look at you, you pitiful thing. Did I hurt your feelings?” Dave blushed, a defensive curl formed on his bottom lip. Claire kissed his hair. “I’m sorry, peanut,” said Claire. “You can have an illegal switchblade if you really want one.” “You’re not just saying that so I’ll rape you,” he said. “Because, I’ve got to tell you, I’m really not feeling up to it tonight.” “No, honey, not at all, I just want you to be happy. All that other stuff can wait till tomorrow. I just want you to have what you want, that’s all.” And boy, he wanted one. He also wanted to yawn. His gums itched. He gave Claire a faint smile and clenched his teeth, kept the yawn inside. “It’s getting late,” he said. But Claire only smiled more sharply, more deviously, calming him, and ate a piece of dried coconut from her fingertips. She put her hand on his thigh and squeezed. “What about your big performance tomorrow?” he said. “That? I’ll be fine. I’m a big girl,” she said. “You don’t have to worry about that. Besides, I play better when I’m tired, it’s like being stoned or something. I’m more focused.” They made love on the floor, next to the litter box, and knocked over the flower arrangement of a few dandelions spraying out the top of a Bud Light bottle. It didn’t deter them a bit. They fucked wildly, as though still young and fresh. And they were young and fresh. They were vital. They were strong. They were healthy, in their prime, and maybe even a bit too naïve of their own coolness, which made them even cooler to anybody who met them, but even still, it had been some lonesome while since either one of them had truly and utterly felt alive. In the morning, Dave opened his eyes to the blaring brass band of three alarm clocks. His brain felt swollen, cramped into tight spaces of skull and sticking out in places through his sockets. It was ten till ten. He needed an aspirin and a cool glass of water. He needed to shit, take a shower, shave his face. He needed to brush the scummy fuzz from his teeth and get a move on the day.


Claire was already on the make—he noticed through the kitchen window she’d taken the Subaru. Fuck, he thought, not the bike, again. As he brushed his teeth, he recalled how they’d replayed footage on Youtube of Kennedy’s head exploding at least a dozen times the night before. They’d debated the ballistics and wind patterns, made jokes about the grassy knoll and the unsightly space between Oswald’s two front teeth, the god-awful inaccuracies of his Wikipedia bio, and after that, they moved onto all the Jack Ruby shit nobody even talks about anymore. He spat, rinsed, spat, rinsed, spat and then he shaved his face with a dull lady-razor with moisturizer strips and pink rubber handgrips. He wanted a switchblade so badly he could nearly taste the steel, feel its electric shocks through the fillings in his molars. He’d grease his hair back with lard and call himself Thunderbolt, if he had one. He’d drink black coffee, smoke non-filtered cigarettes, and become an alcoholic pool shark, if he had one. He’d get a tattoo of a skull with snakes curled around a femur and coming out through big gaping eyeholes. He’d maybe even get an old car, paint it primer gray and just keep it that way, gray and ugly-functional in all its decaying glory, if he had a switchblade. Wind began hard through the small crack in the bottom of the window, blowing a hat and a few empty beverage containers from the sill. Typical Kansas weather—starts with a heavenly sunny morning and then in rushes a storm on sprinter’s legs. Dave looked at the picture of Claire atop the Wurlitzer, mouthed the word bitch, and shoved his iPod into his backpack. He took the malfunctioning comb from his dresser and blindly ran it through his still-moist hair. He clenched the comb like a poorly amped microphone in his fist and started to sing into it. heeey heey, myyyy my, rock ‘n roll will never die. More to the pictuuuurrre thaan meets thee eyyyyyye. Heeey heey, myyyy my… He went over, sat on the bed, put his Nikes on, and briefly thought: When did I become the type of man who can afford this shit? He grabbed the iPod out of his backpack, put the ear buds into his ears, turned on a random song, set it to Shuffle, and reached for the door handle. He thought, I need to pick up some Brass-o and polish up that old rusty-looking knob.


He rode all through town on his bike—past the butcher’s shop, past the sporting goods store, past the taxidermist, past Hamburger Palace, past all the chain-stores, past the university, where Claire was preparing for her senior recital, and then back again, over and over, for hours, cycling circles around town until the sun went down. When he got home, it was dark. He leaned the bike against the side of the house and watched Claire polish her cello through the bedroom window. It had all started with some TV show or other on HBO or Showtime a few months ago—Real Sex or Taboo or something, and now Claire was fantasizing about the strangest things, violent things—they grew like soft tentacles of mildew in her brain—and Dave felt very subtly like a sliver of wedge had softly been driven between them. When Dave got inside the house and sought her out to go at it, to fake rape her as she’d requested, it happened again. His gut sank into his spine. He couldn’t man-up, as she put it, and so he slouched into the bedroom like a troubled hound and set his backpack down against the edge of the bed. Claire put the cello in its case and looked at Dave with her what-thefuck-are-you-doing face and don’t-you-know-what-you’re-supposed-to-be-doing-tome eyes. But he just shook his head, and said, “Not tonight. I’m just too tired. Sorry.” “What the fuck, Dave. You promised me last night that tonight was the night.” “I don’t know what it is,” he said. He ran his broken comb through his hair. “I’m just too tired, that’s all,” he said. A flush of disappointment ran through her eyes, then rage, and then the silent treatment. “Listen,” he said. “No matter what, I have to have the car tomorrow.” Silence. “Jesus, Claire, I’ll rape you tomorrow, okay? I promise,” he said, but he knew he wouldn’t. More silence. “I promise.” He tapped the bedpost with the ball of his hand and thought of all those shiny beautiful things he saw on the internet.


Claire stopped pouting after a while and said, “Look at me, David.” But he was too busy pulling rope out of his backpack to look. “Look. Look at me,” she said. He wouldn’t budge. “Jesus Christ! Look at me!” He lifted his face and studied her in the mild light. “Look, all I want to know is why you have to have the car tomorrow?” He wanted to say something witty and mean. He couldn’t think of anything. All he could think of to say was the next state over. But he decided he’d just keep his mouth shut, say something nice, be vague. He told her he had some special errands to run. She came up closer to him, actually revealing a few teeth through a smile, ran her hand through his hair, and said that she supposed that that would be just fine.




I’m not like the man selling blown glass pieces and incense I am the man selling blown glass pieces and incense I’m not like the wind humming through a fountain hole I am the wind trapped in a room of burning incense I like to lie down and not have to explain And let the album play for me And let incense ash into a mound of white ash And only then will I waft the sandalwood Becoming a smooth stone in some guy’s hand Like how money feels in a briefcase More like itself than itself



I was never a gifted pianist but I played a lot at work When it was around lunchtime the store always went dead Because no one buys engagement rings in the afternoon I often played Moonlight Sonata or Fur Elise the only songs I had really committed to memory sometime in grade school I also played for my wife because she often had guests over And after dinner we didn’t have much else for entertainment After many attempts to distance myself from the group I was lured back in with overwhelming praise to play again One of her various friends pleaded with me to play at his wedding And at the rehearsal he slipped a hundred into my breast pocket I must have drank too much brandy because the lights got fuzzy And my wife laid me in the back seat and drove us home In the morning I had to call out sick from the wedding I woke up and vaguely heard my wife and went back to sleep I knew that by not playing the wedding I had done something That was insulting according to the customs of this world My house was unlit and empty when I finally woke up I walked the halls like I was headed for an entire life spent alone The pianist in me began to light candles around the house



from Sick Trees

He’s no Horus, he just has plumage. “Call me Rick.” Things are gray now. The roads tighter; in the caravan, the jeweler looks closely at a bird embryo and picks out its teeth. It’s not the jeweler who sighs, but Hawk-Head Rick. “I miss city life.” * New England Fat isn’t a thin anymore, hoss. Old tape is the best because the degradation looks super cool, the degradation to the sound and image makes it like a dream, like a painting by an art brute. This dumbfuckland is now Beta Barn. * Don’t blame the dead French architect. His space needle’s a prayer tower. The Holy District: they know you’re not one of them. You’re not a wolf; you hum too much.



The Sommelier and the Poet shake their heads together, which is, like, the first time ever. The Poet cuts the pineapple in thick slices with a small knife. The Sommelier opens a bottle of Thunderbird. “I would’ve hocked it, but everyone is dead.” He does a good James Mason, but no one remembers James Mason. The Poet knows his voice “sounds like a man being thrown through a bus window.” “All we can do is pray, though we haven’t thought up any gods yet.” Everything pairs with everything: the wine in sports-bar cups; the pineapple slices on old camping plates.



The Sommelier sits at home. He will turn the dog on her back and rub her belly. The dog smiles, or is that all teeth? The Sommelier wishes to be a shrine next time, but he will always be an embassy. The Sommelier walks the dog to the gas station for a one-liter of Diet Pepsi; the finest are in the back, where it’s cold. He tells the dog: “Honey, it’s all aesthetic.” But she knows, duh. The Sommelier wishes the gas station was farther, so that he could drive.



EV E N T UA L L I SPE C TOR for Laynie Browne

Awake, a week Noli me tangere Snooze, you lose Bank on it Brisk air, hello No wind as of yet Open for business Sitting up straight The best you can do Little else interests us Marks on wax Right from the start Put a pillow case Horns are a stumbling block Sabbaticals are ok Wrestle with coffee Book goes deep A long look Abandon all jook Who enter jive Parenthetical sleeves The mind is lazy No business sense Late bloomer New century


Game is maùana Play to win An obvious question Where’s the medicine Banana Republican death grip Interesting analogy We think by walking The store is open The walls, plastered Everyone eats outside Let the poem breathe Girls get sweaty and dirty Happy to simply be Light strikes up the day Make your own heat What we get to Is going to Do not hesitate to call Nice note from you Thanks for heads up She writes what she thinks Feels right at the time Time to go As always Unencumbered, shoving off


Peyton Pitts, dope, death, dead, dying and jiving drove her away



“When we go to bed / they on their side tell / one story after another, so each of us / has something to see ourselves in”1

Is there another method than screaming? Tom says yes, puts on his boots, & heads for more stories in the lake’s cold dream. He’s just another version of a migratory duck, he’d be pleased to know. In the impossible reaches of the places closest to your house, ravens eat up memories (this is where everything you forget goes: Summerhill.) The function of the scavenger is to free us from some flesh which had already become too vital. If you have to watch yourself being eaten, shouldn’t it be by a friend or acquaintance? Already the first month gone. She learned cross-stitch but was finally killed by loom-work. What makes ink stick is what lifts a wing. We don’t know all our neighbors; some have certainties like flies. Distraction is the unit of ripening, so there’s hope. A minimum of nine people are living my day better. No one reaches the sack-race finish line. Some are rolling out their patsies. They’re stubborn, as if taking dictation. Grab the hydrangeas, and don’t forget the alibi. Sit with me. Please don’t leave until just before the applause. Applaud the just until they leave. Don’t please me with sitting, & alibis. Forget-me-nots and hydrangeas dictate that taking is stubborn. Are they patsies? Their roles are: [some lines, a finished race, reaching one who knows better]. Today my life is people, nine at a minimum; a hope. There’s ripening of units. Distraction flies. Like certainty, some neighbors are all-knowing. Don’t we wing-lift what is stricken?


Ink makes what works. Looming by the killed, finality was in stitches. Across the learning she was gone. Months first, but already she had acquaintances & friends just by being what they should. Eat your being, yourself. Watch: have your vitals, too, become ready? Has this flesh gotten something from us for free? You’re everything.  where is this memory? Ravens house your closest places, the reaches impossible to know. Please be him, duck—migrate a version of another that’s just ice. Dream coldly. The lake’s story is more, heading for my boots. He puts on a yes, says, “tomcat.” The method of another: there is.


from Justina Bargielska’s “The Length, the Depth” (trans. from Polish by Piotr Sommer & Seneca Review)



When you can’t bend over to pick up what you’ve spilled preach instead. As long as the frame is frozen, the lovenotes and whatnots are still amassing a helpful visual of soldiers. I can’t tell whether the world is inhaling or exhaling, but you’ll do a better job if it’s all you’ve got. Predispositions: believe, deny, execute. Give me fangs or a course on Whitman. You can’t be expected to rally without tools. A few loose instructions. Allergy to evidence of self. My business is with myself, so what am I doing harassing passersby with the specter of a garden? O get it over with & go to England already. Think you’ll find Anything different there? Make some wine & stare at a stranger before answering. Who the fuck is supposed to care? I’m entering a contest I know I can win! I can’t breathe –That book is so bad. –Because I know the owner. –A bone would be nice, if you could find one. One finds cans, you, niceties, bees, wood, bones. Own the knowing, because badness sews books that breathe. Can I win? Can I know? I contest entering my own care. Suppose fucking is answering before a stranger. A stare. Wine makes different things find you. Think: already England goes to get a garden. Specters of passersby harassing the dew.


I am what? –So myself. (Business of self. Evidence of allergy to instructions. Loose tools without a rally. An expected cat.) You, Whitman, are on course for the fangs I give out. (Executives deny, believe, predispose. You’re all its job. Better do some exhaling, or inhaling.) The world’s weather tells me soldiers are visuals of help. Amassing stillness. What notices love? The frozen frame, the long instead. Preach, spilling your best picks over the bend, can’t you? When?


The EPA fails again: a love poem

The fear you’ve carried like a sprouted nut crawling towards the moisture of my voice— shall I sing? I know less than half of the words and count them daily like pats of sliding butter. Ruled paper has been helpful in understanding the daisy. Whom do I call if I lose the garden? I keep apologizing for the loneliness of others so I’m late to every book club. In the language of errands is a busted ladder for fruit picking. We are the hobby kind of farmer, thank God. Suckers wend from every ending word, warping the universe. The lake is still there, dancing white circles around our fortitude. You’ll have to slow your heartbeat to sustain your answer which I’ve written here. Undress plainly; don’t wince or lean. No, lean into the wince—don’t plainly undress. Here’s a written I which answers your sustained heartbeat. Your slowness has your fortitude. Our circles whitely dance there, still by the lake’s universe. Warped words end every wending. A sucker God thanks the farmer for his kindness hobby, the picking of fruit. The ladder busted our errant language. In this club, we book it. Lateness is for others, comes of loneliness and apologizing. Keep the garden, the loss, if called to. I’ll do the daisies, understanding, helpfulness, & being. (Have papers ruled us, butter sliding past like days?) Count the words, the half that are less known than sung. The voice, my moisture, comes towards me crawling. A nut sprouts, like you, carrying your fear.




When we meet strangers we are the best liars. I did some ok soul searching today. With two decades of knowledge. I risked the rest of my life for those thoughts. The lighting of this room negates my tenacity. They’ll do whatever with my body. An Ideal copy Apartments of human molds. Waiting for inspirations.




my brain is ugly my brain likes 2pac my brain is desirous of alcohol my brain moves fast, my brain makes me weird, my brain is simple when i see a dog i like when it kisses me i think abt the dog’s brain why are you looking at me that way dog? what are your emotions? how strong is your tongue? tiny things seem so magical when you are a child asking mom/whoever to let you play for just 5 more minutes, just 5 more minutes, just 5 more minutes i watched a man make an arrowhead once it was light clear blue when he was talking to my parents he said i didn’t get bored as quickly as most kids do & i could hear the words he was using


careless sexy fun & free

shout out to john cougar mellencamp the dude who hated the stupid fake name the record company fucks gave him shout out to everyone who makes me feel attractive or nice but mostly just attractive like my body is something to feel good abt being smashed by imagine going to a planet where your brain doesn’t feel weird am i allowed to do something and have it have nothing to do w/ you? i call MGMT management like a fuckin boss do you think she’ll like me if i try to hold her hand ...? sometimes i see people w/ long hair and they look really beautiful i don’t think anyone has the right 2 tell miley what 2 do while she’s high as fuck i watch people who try to say what counts as art and think they are racist hang my neck in a gallery when i was fat ppl laughed while i danced everyone avoids strong feelings but not me i snort them like cocaine underwear everywhere i want 3 kisses in his song kool ad says something about a national salary cap & it’s great it’s debbie’s birthday i showed kyle her book & heems is the only dude i’ve ever felt jealous of because once debbie posted on her tumblr abt how sexy he is




Read an article about a woman who was convinced she was dead Claiming Disney movies resurrected her; made her feel alive again Other people saw white/gold when some people saw blue/black Little girl with new buttons brought to her by appreciative crows I drew a face on the moon like he was happy to see me Charles Manson called off his engagement After he learned his fiancé only wanted corpse rights for a roadside attraction Meanwhile, in England, a weasel rode the back of a hummingbird And I couldn’t get the bloodstain out of my Charlie Brown style t-shirt Mom texted me to see what I was up to so I told her That I was eating potato chips and writing poetry But the implied less lyrical truth was practicing prayer Praying for every person to the left of me, and the right of me Until every person in the world had someone wishing the best for them I’m not sure I know if that’s how it works But until then I’m trying to pay attention





Michael Rose, Untitled



Obliged to perform in darkness

Let him smack me with the back of his palm I deserve to be dumped into the sack with the other sick bodies Run, take my sick body and break it open The more crushed it gets the easier it will be to see inside of me You stare at my intestines My intestines stare back They are not your friends You unravel them, store them in a plastic box where you keep your important papers I am the family archivist, you say I keep your guts next to the birth certificates and old pregnancy sticks that foretold the fruit inside me Moldy little bodies cross paths in the wrong bloodstream I sprout a slimy little stranger He vomits happiness through my squishy hole You want to tell me something: in the forest you’ll find some fingers They are like berries They are like the ulcers in my pubic hairs We are trapped in the cage and they think we will eat the mice who are with us But after a few days the mice grow so exasperated they begin to nibble at our feet Mother picks a mouse up by its tail Smacks it against the cage until its innards explodes Ooze drips from its lips It shits something out as it drops I stare at its dead body and mommy dreams of the frying pan She sings a song about eggs Scrambling, popping in oil, splattering Mommy who thinks eggs are a delicacy But my body is a contagious disease My lips are pussed-up little blisters An infection crawls up my leg and into my knee My knee burns


I am in a cage and the doctors want to remove my knee I don’t have a knee I am a dead man clawing at dead grass in a pop song with a snappy rhythm Cats paw at my body, kick it around like a rubber toy When you practice using chopsticks, you practice inside of me How far do you pull my tongue There is no water inside my lips You prove this when you pry them open I write much better poems when I am limp, dying or dead, sings mommy I slump by a window in a house in a cage in a forest in a pan full of frying eggs checking boxes to indicate my identity Herniated spleen, check Crushed ribs, check Latino. Male. Jewish. Caucasian Check, check, check, check This is my elbow It is not on my body It is in your skull, which is in my eyeball They command you to lick my eyeballs but you are afraid they are diseased so you refuse and they beat you and whip you and love you Throw these bodies parts in a baggie, they sing Tomorrow you will scoop out some brains They beat me for scooping out the wrong brains These are not your brains, they say The brains to scoop out are your own


Marshall Cargle, Untitled




Read Infinite Jest on the El train, travel downtown; discover the time it takes to ride from Argyle to Jackson is precisely the time it takes to read 12 pages. Read: He hadn’t quite gotten this before now, how it wasn’t just the matter of riding out the cravings for a Substance: everything unendurable was in the head, was the head not Abiding in the Present but hopping the wall and doing a recon and then returning with unendurable news you then somehow believed. Arrive at the locked classroom early, meet a student sitting outside the door, waiting;. She is also reading Infinite Jest. Nod, take out your copy, the sign of allegiance. Hamlet: There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. She laughs, “I just picked this up at a bookstore a few weeks ago and started reading. I couldn’t stop. I’m halfway through.” Wonder if someone has told her about you, but know better. Wonder if students get lovelier every semester; or if being a mother has made you better. You thought it made you worse. Consider how the energy of teaching is akin to the energy of mothering. Feel fond of students, already. Consider how strange it is to grow into a job you never imagined doing, one that gives you headaches but is infinitely rewarding. Think about choice. Remember this section from that Barthelme story: One day we had a discussion in class. They asked me, where did they go? The trees, the salamander, the tropical fish, Edgar, the poppas and mommas, Matthew and Tony, where did they go? And I said, I don’t know, I don’t know. And they said, who knows? and I said, nobody knows. And they said, is death that which gives meaning to life? And I said no, life is that which gives meaning to life. Remember something a friend wrote recently, in an email: Sometimes something unutterably tragic imbues other parts of life that seemed ridiculous a bit more precious and important. Death can shine a light upon life, as simple and silly as it sounds, it is nonetheless important to remember. Take the train back home:; pass Lawrence, then Wilson. He wonders, sometimes, if that’s what Ferocious Francis and the rest want him to walk toward; Abiding again between heartbeats; tries to imagine what kind of impossible leap it would take to live that way all the time, by choice, straight: in the second, the Now, walled and contained between slow heartbeats. Ferocious Francis’s own sponsor, the nearly dead guy they wheel to White Flag and call Sarge, says it all the time: It’s a gift, the Now: it’s AA’s real gift: it’s no accident they call it The Present. Get off at Argyle. Stop at Ba Le Bakery to pick up a Vietnamese sandwich and spring rolls before walking to the feminist bookstore. Think about Kate Gompert: Like most clinically depressed patients, she appeared to function better in focused activity than in stasis. Their normal paralyzed stasis allowed these patients’ own minds to chew them apart. Find a copy of Dubliners; sit on the floor in the children’s section and re­read “The Dead”;; think about your own Irish tendency to spend hours on memory lane. Think, too, of the price of spending too much time there. Wonder if this is Joyce’s warning. Think of a student again: I have a choice. I can choose to be where I am, in my life, today. Think of Don Gately: Abiding. No one single instant of it was unendurable. Here was a second right 96

here: he endured it. Remember when you first read Dubliners in a college course, Death in Modern Fiction, a.k.a. “The Death Class”;; consider how you had to become just a little bit old to understand this story. Now I get it! You want to tell your teacher. Try to remember what it was like not to get it, not really. Remember what another friend wrote, not long ago: It was never easy to be young.

Italicized lines in this piece are taken from Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace, and “The School” by Donald Barthelme.


James Sanders, Epiimproper 4



The Future

I don’t need a footnote compiled by some patient grad student 100 years from now to contextualize this poem for me because I’ll be so dead that it’s not worth imagining how that footnote will appear: on a display screen, say, or in light projected onto air and controlled by wishes, so that when you want to see my poem you’ll simply wish for “The Future,” and there it is in front of you, wherever you happen to be, and when you’re feeling confused and need elucidation to some reference, you’ll simply wish for clarity. Notes on the confusing word or phrase will then appear, and you’ll see the ruins and broken people I hate and love, you’ll also see the annotations other readers are scanning for my other poems, and you’ll be comforted to know that they’re too trying to re-teach themselves how to use their other eyes. Maybe, somewhere behind “The Future,” someone is using their other eyes to scan your features and you’ll see them with your other eyes, and you’ll feel the urge to press one end of your digestive tract against one end


of their digestive tract, and you’ll fondle and snuggle each other, and you’ll coo about birds, because you’ve finally found each other right here in “The Future,” by Joseph Bradshaw, and in due course you’ll fart under blankets together, or you’ll shit on a pane of glass with Michel Foucault underneath in the bathtub (things get weird in “The Future”) and you’ll smile, unashamed, and bare each other your teeth, or you’ll bare the happy absence of teeth, and you’ll know you’re free to go at any time.


The Joseph Ick

Some serial soap operas like The Young and the Joseph General Jospital All My Josephs They make me cry As I eat ice cream and fold clothes I fold Joseph into my lonely trousers And it makes me cry Desperate Housejosephs I want someone to remember me After my Josephs have grown and died I want their Josephs to wear my Joseph pants To bring them back in style I want to ride with my great grandjosephs In my Ford Joseph sedan I’ll take them to soccer And to Camp Bad First Sex I’ll tell them each to never be a victim I’ll tell them they can’t forget There’s a line Between the world of taste and Joseph There’s a line between Joseph and the world In my long-dead smile All my Josephs will blur that line Because they’ll carry in their Joseph pants A smiling bit of Joseph ick And they’ll pass the Joseph ick On to their Josephs and their Joseph’s Josephs And their Joseph’s Joseph’s Josephs Won’t even know their ick has a name Until they reach deep into the ick And find their own happy Joseph


Jonathan Bennett, Black Layers 102

Molly Dillon, Untitled



Max Adrian is an artist with a diverse studio practice that involves sculpture, writing, installation, and photography. Greatly influenced by history and the art of storytelling, Adrian is concerned with ways in which humans engage with one another among such issues as social rights, sexuality, and cultural traditions. Adrian is a former resident of the New York Studio Residency Program in Brooklyn, NY. Cassie Allen is a writer and illustrator residing in Kansas City. She has a deep interest in biology, mythology, and anatomy. Her art seeks to recreate yet reinvent the knowledge she’s picked up over her years of research. Jonathan Bennett is a multi-discipline artist residing in Kansas City, Missouri. His work deals with subjects such as appropriation of perversely commonplace imagery, temporality, and over-stimulation. Siara Berry is a sculptor and creative writer working and living in Kansas City. Daniel Borzutzky is the author of In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy (Nightboat, 2015), The Book of Interfering Bodies (Nightboat, 2011), The Ecstasy of Capitulation (BlazeVox, 2007); the chapbooks Bedtime Stories for the End of the World (Bloof Books, 2014), and Data Bodies (The Green Lantern, 2013), One Size Fits All (Scantily Clad Press, 2009), and Failure of the Imagination (Bronze Skull Press 2007); and a collection of short stories, Arbitrary Tales (Ravenna Press, 2005). He has translated Chilean poets Raúl Zurita’s The Country of Planks (Action Books, 2015) and Song for His Disappeared Love (Action Books, 2010); and Jaime Luis Huenún’s Port Trakl (Action Books, 2008). His writing has been translated into Spanish, French, Bulgarian, and Turkish, and has been anthologized in Angels of the Americlypse: An Antholog y of New Latin@ Writing; La Alteración del Silencio: Poesía Norteamericana Reciente; Malditos Latinos Malditos Sudacas: Poesia Iberoamericana Made in USA; A Best of Fence: The First Nine Years; and The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century. Borzutzky’s work has been recognized by grants from the PEN American Center and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Joseph Bradshaw is the author of The New York School, which Publication Studio published in Spring of 2015, and In the Common Dream of George Oppen (Shearsman Books, 2011). He teaches writing at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. Marshall Cargle is a 2015 BFA candidate at the Kansas City Art Institute. I really like the movies The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, and The Scorpion King. Chris Cheney was born in Western Massachusetts and studied at The University of Massachusetts Amherst MFA Program for Poets and Writers. He lives in Ridgewood, Queens. Forthcoming poems are soon appear in jubilat, Pleiades, and others. Lucy Chouquette is an artist and writer from St. Louis, Missouri. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She received her BFA in Photography and Creative Writing from the Kansas City Art Institute and is presently pursuing her MFA in Photography, Video and Related Media from the School of Visual Arts. Paul Hanson Clark was born in Nebraska. He tweets at @paulhansonclark. He is involved with sp ce commons. Brian Clifton co-edits Bear Review. For the time being, he lives in Kansas City Missouri. Stella Corso lives in Greenfield, MA and teaches at Western New England University. She is a founding member of the Connecticut River Valley Poets’ Theater (CRVPT). Her first book is forthcoming from Coconut Books in 2016. Molly Dillon is an artist and writer from Neenah, WI. She currently resides in Kansas City and also plays trombone. Tim Earley is the author of three collections of poems, Boondoggle, The Spooking of Mavens, and Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and History, winner of the 2014 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Poetry Award. He lives and teaches in Oxford, Mississippi.


Phil Estes lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His work has recently appeared, or is forthcoming, in Lung full! and Prelude. John Gallaher is the author of five books, the most recent of which is In a Landscape (BOA, 2014). He lives in rural Missouri and co-edits The Laurel Review. Robert Gano is a Kansas City poet and photographer. His writing engages the ridiculous and the absurd, the strange in the common, our relationship to the unknown. Casey Hannan lives and writes in Kansas City. His debut collection of stories, Mother Ghost, is available from Tiny Hardcore Press. He can be found at casey-hannan.com. Matt Hart’s most recent books are Sermons and Lectures Both Blank and Relentless and Debacle Debacle. A co-founder and the editor-in-chief of Forklift, Ohio: A Journal of Poetry, Cooking, & Light Industrial Safety, he teaches at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and plays in the band TRAVEL. Nathan Hoks is the author of two books of poetry, Reveilles and The Narrow Circle. He is an editor and letterpress printer for the micro-press Convulsive Editions and works as a visiting lecturer in the University of Chicago’s Committee on Creative Writing. Anna Kamerer is an interdisciplinary artist, poet, and caregiver. She is a graduate from the Kansas City Art Institute where she majored in painting and creative writing. Her current work is a comparative study of objecthood, femininity and community in the digital age. She currently lives and paints in Brooklyn. more at www.annakamerer.com Christine Kanownik lives in Brooklyn. She is the founder of Electric Pumas and American Oxygen. She is the author of KING OF PAIN (Monk Books, 2015) and the chapbook We Are Now Beginning to Act Wildly (Diez Press, 2012).


Seth Landman is the author of four chapbooks and the full-length poetry collection Sign You Were Mistaken (Factory Hollow Press, 2013). His work can be found in Boston Review, io, jubilat, Jellyfish, Lit, Forklift, Ohio, and elsewhere. He received his PhD in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Denver (2013) and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts (2008) where is currently an Academic Advisor. Caroline Manring’s work has appeared in Colorado Review, Conduit, Drunken Boat, jubilat, and elsewhere. Her Manual for Extinction won the National Poetry Review Book Prize. She lives and teaches in Upstate New York, where she also leads bird walks and plays fiddle in a family band. Zophia McDougal is a Midwestern athlete turned artist/writer. She pursues experiences and celebrates how they are made, enjoyed, discussed, and remembered. A practice of noting moments through drawings, recordings, writing and other visual means makes her a student of life while also a human craving interaction with her environment, along with the people in it. Her favorite ice cream is all the Ben and Jerry’s flavors and she really, really likes to walk. Emmett Merrill is expecting a BFA in printmaking from the Kansas City Art Institute. He makes prints which draw heavily on the influence of the German Expressionists, The Outlaw Printmakers, and sketchbooks of art history. Marcus Myers lives in Kansas City, Mo, where he co-edits Bear Review, an online journal of poems and micro prose, with poet Brian Clifton. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Hunger Mountain, Mid-American Review, The National Poetry Review, and Tar River Poetry. His book reviews have appeared in H_NGM_N, Pleiades and The Rumpus. Christina Nobiling is an animator and writer from Moline, IL. She is due to graduate from the Kansas City Art Institute in the spring of 2015. Daiana Oneto is an Argentine immigrant raised in Miami, FL. She is a soon to be graduate of KCAI with a BFA in both Printmaking and Art History. Her work is tied to traditional printmaking processes and explores the body’s relationship to the earth. 107

Coco Owen is a stay-at-home poet in Los Angeles. She has published in the Antioch Review, 1913, CutBank, The Journal, Rio Grande Review and the Feminist Wire, among other venues. She has been a finalist in several recent book contests and Binge Press published her mini chapbook, “My Engl-ish Is A Suffix Langu-age”. Owen serves on the board of Les Figues Press in Los Angeles. See more of her work at: coco owen | poetry, psychology, creativity Peyton Pitts was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is currently pursuing BFAs in Printmaking and Art History at the Kansas City Art Institute. Annie Raab is a writer living in Kansas City, MO. Her short stories and criticism have been published in alice blue review, Axolotl, The Bookend Review, Kawsmouth, KC Studio, and others. She edits prose for Kansas City Voices. Kit Robinson is the author of Determination (Cuneiform), The Messianic Trees: Selected Poems, 1976-2003 (Adventures in Poetry), and 20 other books of poetry. His collaboration with Ted Greenwald, A Mammal of Style (Roof) was named among “the best poetry of 2014” by the Chicago Tribune. Michael Rose is a 2015 BFA candidate at the Kansas City Art Institute. He has participated in several online and offline exhibitions including The Wrong - New Digital Art Biennale: Homeostasis Lab and Z-Spec. James Sanders is a member of the Atlanta Poets Group, a writing and performing collective. His book, Self-Portrait in Plants, is forthcoming in spring 2015 from Coconut Books. The University of New Orleans Press also recently published the group’s An Atlanta Poets Group Antholog y: The Lattice Inside. Suzanne Scanlon is the author of Promising Young Women (2012) and Her 37th Year, An Index (2015). She writes about theater for the Chicago Reader, and her fiction has appeared in The Iowa Review, Bomb, and many other places. She teaches creative writing at Columbia College and in the MFA program of Roosevelt University in Chicago. Crista Siglin is from Greenfield, Iowa. She is currently a senior at the Kansas City Art Institute, and is studying painting and creative writing. Her work is an investigation of the roads to and from the Uncanny Valley. 108

Matthew Suss lives in Chicago. His poems have appeared in Action, Yes, Sprung Formal, Anomalous Press and NOO Weekly. He is the co-author of Shut Up & Bloom (iO Books). Troy James Weaver lives in Kansas with his wife and their dog. His work has appeared in numerous journals, including Hobart, Heavy Feather Review, Everday Genius, and elsewhere. He is the author of Witchita Stories (Future Tense Books) and Visions (Broken River Books), and he welcomes emails at troyweav@yahoo.com. Jillian Youngbird is a multi-media artist living and working in Kansas City. She creates contemporary Native American works that are often a mix of dark comedy and sometimes morbid yet precious content that touch on experiences and feelings connected to Native American culture and personal history.